Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Thanking Dad

September 23, 2016

Lately, I’ve been thinking abut my dad who passed away eight years ago. This post from 2013 is a reminder of the type of man he was.

 

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A rather large spider has erected its web above our front door and Mrs. Chatterbox has demanded I eliminate it. She refuses to exit our home through the front door until I practice spidercide. Some might comment that Mrs. C. should dispatch it herself if she wants it done so badly, but over the years we’ve devised an equitable plan dividing household chores (Mrs. C. would rightfully scoff at my usage of the word equitable.) Bug killing falls to me. I’m not fond of spiders but, unlike Mrs. Chatterbox, I’m not terrified of them. I would prefer to capture the critter in a cup and set it out in the yard where it can rebuild its web. Unfortunately, this “biggie” is not in an easy to reach spot and can’t be taken alive.

           

Yesterday, during our morning phone conversation, my mother asked about my plans for the day. I explained that killing a spider was the only thing on my schedule. (Life is slow right now.) She went on to explain, to my surprise, how much my late father detested and feared spiders. I was surprised to learn this fact about my dad.

           

I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley and our house was located in a former pear orchard. Rotting fruit attracts all sorts of insects, which in turn attract spiders. The orchards were gone but spiders remained, particularly black widows. Our house was inexpensive and poorly constructed; the structure occasionally slipped off the concrete blocks serving as the foundation, requiring Dad to crawl beneath the house to jack it up and reposition the concrete blocks.

           

The trap door leading to the crawl space beneath our house was located in my bedroom closet. Once or twice when bored I’d pulled open the crawl space door and aimed a flashlight into the darkness. I saw the webs and creepy crawlies that no amount of insecticide could kill. When I was little I had nightmares about spiders huge enough to push aside the door and grab me in my sleep. What I couldn’t imagine was Dad sharing my fear. I can close my eyes and see Dad disappearing beneath the house to make the repairs. He was just so darn stoic, never showing fear.

           

Now when I close my eyes and see my father in his overalls, twine tightly wrapped around his ankles and wrists, and a baseball cap covering his thick dark hair as he descended into the darkness, I realize how his heart must have been pounding in his chest when he confronted his fear, a fear he never spoke of and worked hard to keep from his kids.

           

I remember asking him if he was afraid of all the spiders beneath our house and he just ruffled my hair and said, “They’re probably more afraid of me than I am of them.”

           

During yesterday morning’s conversation, Mom also told me that Dad had a fear of water, even though I can recall many summers at pools or lakes where dad appeared fearless as he taught me to swim and jump from diving boards. Afraid of the water? Hard to believe, based on what I witnessed.

           

I realize everyone has fears, but I wonder how many parents have instilled theirs in their children? I know Dad would have bristled at hearing himself described as courageous; he probably thought of himself as an ordinary dad, an average Joe, doing what needed to be done because that’s what dads did. But hiding one’s fears, and refusing to let them define you, does take courage.

           

Thanks to my Dad, I can face the spider hanging in wait above my front door, even though Mrs. C. tells me it looks big enough to saddle.

 

What is your great fear, and did you avoid passing it along to your kids?

 

 

 

 

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Comments

21 Comments
Since a lot of fears are learned from others, that was smart of your dad not to pass along his. I have no fear of spiders - I also catch and release - but no way would I have crawled under the house.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on September 23, 2016
Snakes, rodents, etc. I guess when you become a dad you got to learn to suck it up. Probably just as well I don't have kids.
By: PT Dilloway on September 23, 2016
I have a fear of heights. Both my kids know. Yet the oldest one wants to skydive and get a pilot's license. I take no credit for those desires.
By: Val on September 23, 2016
(As far as I know) my dad wasn't afraid of anything!!
By: fi on September 23, 2016
Your Dad was truly a brave man. My Dad unintentionally made me afraid of heights. He fell off a scaffolding breaking a leg and I heard him worriedly tell my Mom that suddenly he was afraid of heights. I just over heard that conversation but from then on, heights scared me silly.
By: Arkansas Patti on September 23, 2016
Being a Cardinals fan, I fear that the Cubs are going to win the World Series and I'll never hear the end of it from father, who is a lifelong fan of the baby bears. Most of my fears are irrational and mostly just worry about stuff that I have no control over like the Cubs winning the World Series. I try to hide it from the kiddos but they are pretty perceptive. I have trying to practice the mantra of "Don't borrow worries." Take care Stephen.
By: Mr. Shife on September 23, 2016
My big fear is mice. I don't like them. Since mice are very rare here I don't think ,my kids realized I was afraid of mice.
By: red Kline on September 23, 2016
Heights. Especially so on a mountain ledge or building roof without a protective wall or guard. My work over the years put me in such places and I had to buck it up. Both of my daughters climb and hike in mountains and they did some seem to catch my phobia.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 23, 2016
Good for your dad for not passing that along to you. Likewise, I'll bet that there are fears that you have not passed along to your son. I'm fearful of small spaces and heights. When my son was very young, his friend who lived next door opted for his uncle to take his friends flying for his birthday. It was a small four-seater, lightweight plane. I was very nervous about sending my baby up into the sky in that thing. He was last of the kids to go.. final flight and since all of the other kids had already flown, there was one extra seat. It was offered up to me. I decided that if my son was going to die in a plane, I wanted to go with him. SO melodramatic, eh? We were both fine, of course. And I very much enjoyed it. As did he. He has zero fear of heights. Neither does my other boy.
By: Hilary on September 23, 2016
RE: the above reply. They did NOT seem to catch my phobia. Sorry about missing the edit.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 23, 2016
I think that was a different time when men weren't encouraged to share feelings or fears. Plus, living through the depression and them WWII taught our parents and grandparents what is *really* scary. People are too whiny today. They don't appreciate if they have enough to eat and a rof ver their heads. They feel entitled to that and now want a great job where they're respected and a car and 4 wks vacation, and, and, and... Spoiled.
By: Lexa Cain on September 23, 2016
My biggest fear is snakes. The scene in the original True Grit movie where the girl falls down into a mine shaft and is surrounded by rattlers still makes my skin crawl.
By: Catalyst on September 23, 2016
My fear is of fire, and i certainly didn't pass that on to any of them, least of all #2 Son, my pyromaniac child who took over the BBQ grill when he was 9.
By: messymimi on September 23, 2016
He sounds like a great guy. As you must know by now (being a dad yourself): Dads are courageous!
By: Tom Sightings on September 23, 2016
I really don't have any phobias that I know of. I've climbed an antenna on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The wind out of the north made is sway. I've crawled under houses when I installed phones for the phone company and swatted spiders, wasps, and gotten a face full of a snake once that was hiding inside a terminal. That's not to say I haven't been startled, but I don't fear them. But the road is long. Maybe I'll discover something.
By: Rick Watson on September 23, 2016
I may be cautious around certain things (like snakes and alligators), but I don't think I have any irrational fears. My mother is terrified of thunderstorms. One of my childhood memories is my mother waking up everybody in the house (nine people!) during bad thunderstorms, gathering them in the living room, and waiting out the thunder and lightning while muttering the Lord's Prayer. Luckily she didn't pass that fear on to me, because I now live in the land of daily summer thunderstorms.
By: Pixel Peeper on September 24, 2016
What a lovely story. I am the one who disposes of spiders in my house. :-) Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on September 24, 2016
Wonderful account about your memories of your dad. I am ashamed to admit that there was a time when I could not remember just exactly what my dad looked like. He died in 1981. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 24, 2016
My mother had so many fears, still does, that she seemed happy to pass them on to both my brother and me, but most of them I've managed to work through, but not my fear of elevators, although unlike her, I will go in them.
By: LL Cool Joe on September 25, 2016
I remember reading this some time ago- and was struck by how kind your Dad was and also how kind you are.
By: Kathe W. on September 25, 2016
This was a great anecdote, I bet you have a hundred more stories like this - of your dad (or mom) doing things that seem ordinary on the surface, but they have a lasting and positive impact on you. I try to be aware of this with my kids, but I can barely take care of myself. Trying though.
By: Chris on September 25, 2016

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